Adam Alexander's Blog

June 9, 2018

New serialization! Chapter 1.0 available here.
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Published on June 09, 2018 07:53 • 17 views

May 26, 2018

Have just added chapter 14 to the serialization of Archangel. Link to entire series so far is here
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Published on May 26, 2018 08:08 • 19 views
The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, GentlemanThe Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman by Laurence Sterne

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Avant garde - even for today. I found it incredibly heavy going. But if you're into things like Ulysses by James Joyce, then you should definitely read this, the grand-daddy of them all.

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Published on May 26, 2018 08:05 • 4 views

March 12, 2018

Finished the first draft of Starship 4. And the third (or is it fourth?) iteration of The Deep Tunnel. Starship 4 is on ice for a few weeks until I’m ready to have a go at tidying it up. The Deep Tunnel is in the hands of a new evaluator for DartFrog (my distributor) because the last one took so long and was a bit vague with her requirements. Writing books is slow! I think The Deep Tunnel is in good enough shape to start serializing it, though, so I think I’ll put it up on my website in the next few weeks. Just as soon as the Archangel serialization comes to an end.

On the subject of Archangel, the time has come to start thinking about the sequel, as that is my next project (followed by another stand-alone novel, followed by a sequel to The Deep Tunnel, followed by….). I need to reread it and sketch some sort of outline. As I sit here, I have no idea where we’re going to go with it, but there are enough unresolved issues from the first book to provide a decent platform for the second!
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Published on March 12, 2018 10:00 • 7 views

March 11, 2018

Have just added chapter 13 to the serialization of Archangel. Link to entire series so far is here
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Published on March 11, 2018 08:27 • 16 views

February 9, 2018

Unearthed After Sunset (Cereus Vampire Chronicles #1)Unearthed After Sunset by Lauryn April

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Dumped boy meets fun girl in bar. They share a moment. Boy gets turned into a vampire, girl turns out to be a vampire hunter. Complications ensue....

So begin the adventures of Greg and Caroline, the protagonists of Lauryn April's new vampire novel Unearthed After Sunset . Writing a vampire novel is a bit like singing the blues. There are basically only 12 notes to the blues: add a thirteenth and you have something different. Similarly, vampires in vampire novels have to be, well, vampires. You can't mess with the basic trope because if you do, your vampire becomes... something else, and you no longer have a vampire novel. Writing a genuinely original vampire novel is next to impossible. It's the variations on the theme that keep you entertained.

With that in mind, Ms. April has succeeded in writing a pretty decent example of the genre. Her writing is crisp, flows smoothly, and the editing is well above average. In my view, Ms. April's writing is so good, she could have treated us to an extra 10,000 words of atmospherics rather than just rattling on with the narrative, which is not something every vampire author can pull off. Her characters (no matter how "bad") are sympathetic and believable, and their motivations make sense. As you get into the meat of this adventure-romance, the vampire-lore that drives this particular plot (and there is a plot: yay!) is compelling and well-thought out. It is a minor tragedy therefore, that all this good stuff is sandwiched between a beginning so derivative of Buffy The Vampire Slayer that I almost stopped reading, and a last paragraph so clunkily junior-high as to be almost insulting to the reader. Of course the protagonists will meet again: it's a romance series!

Kvetching aside, however, if you are a fan of the genre this book will not disappoint. I for one am looking forward to #2. Perhaps then we will find out why the series is named "Cereus!"

Many thanks to Ms. April for providing me with free review copy.

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Published on February 09, 2018 10:13 • 3 views

January 27, 2018

Have just added chapter 12 to the serialization of Archangel. Link to entire series so far is here
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Published on January 27, 2018 07:25 • 3 views

January 17, 2018

Have just added chapter 11 to the serialization of Archangel. Link to entire series so far is here
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Published on January 17, 2018 18:05 • 4 views

January 4, 2018

Have just added chapter 10 to the serialization of Archangel. Link to entire series so far is here.
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Published on January 04, 2018 18:36 • 1 view

January 3, 2018

Life, as everyone over the age of 18 months knows, is funny. If not funny in the “ha-ha” sense, then definitely as in “peculiar.” So – funnily enough – Life has seen fit to move me from Chicago, “The City of Big Shoulders” (pop. 3m) to Pittsburgh, “The Paris of Appalachia” (pop. 3… ish).

Pittsburgh (named as a joke by a humorless Scottish general back in the day) has much to recommend it, particularly if you like to follow winning sports teams. But it differs from Chicago in two very important respects. First, it is hilly. Second, everyone you meet in Pittsburgh is from… Pittsburgh. If you’ve arrived here from Chicago (or, to be brutally honest, from anywhere else on Planet Earth), these two characteristics combine to form an epic cocktail of misery, to be consumed very much at your own risk.

To understand where I’m coming from, however, it’s necessary to pause a moment and think about spiders.

Spiders are truly one of nature’s wonders. Where a human has four limbs, a spider has eight. Where people have to make do with two eyes, a spider can have up to 12. Where a human can spend an entire day trying to hunt down a single, annoying fly, a single, heaven-sent spider consumes 2,000 insects in a year. They can spin silk webs using nothing more than sprays of liquid, and their silk has the tensile strength of steel. If you are one of those poor fools who are terrified of spiders, you already know that they are next to impossible to kill with insect spray. And on top of all that, they never take a day off - ever. Spiders are the world’s superheroes.

But spiders, like all superheroes, have their kryptonite. And in the case of spiders, it is bathtubs. We’ve all gone through the slightly unsettling experience of finding a spider sitting in the bathtub, stark against the enamel, legs akimbo, ready to eat the next thing it comes across. And if you happen to be naked at the time, it is hard to shake the feeling that the next thing it’s going to eat is you.

As a child, I subscribed to the belief (no doubt given to me by credulous parents) that the spider in the bathtub had spent the day killing and eating its way through the sewage system, and had crawled up through the plughole for a breather. Once rested (and hungry) it would no doubt disappear from whence it came so that the killing and eating could recommence – blessedly out of sight of human eyes – and a certain malodorous child could have the shower he had successfully resisted for the best part of a week.

As a young adult, however, with my very own bathtub (albeit still infrequently used), I made the strangest of discoveries. If you find a spider in your bathtub in the afternoon, go to a bar without bothering to bathe, get smashed, get told by the girl of your dreams “not even if you were the last man on earth,” come home, crash out heartbroken and insensible in the early hours of the morning, wake up in the early hours of afternoon 2.0 with a hideous hangover, and stumble back into your bathroom to be sick, you know what? The spider will still be there!

The sad and tragic truth is that the spider didn’t crawl up through the plughole; it fell down the side of the bath. In its eternal quest for stuff to eat, it had wandered into my bathroom (I suspect, with all that tile, it looked like the kitchen), crawled up to the edge of the bath, lost its footing (all eight of them) and fallen in. Once in, it was faced with a desert of blindingly smooth enamel and no way out. It had scrambled desperately hither and yon, racing up the kiln-fired cliffs to freedom, only to slip on the glassy surface and fall back to the bottom again. After a few hundred attempts (you don’t get to be a spider without being persistent), it decided to conserve its energy and wait for another spider to fall in. After all, when confronted with a problem like this, two heads are better than one. And if the second head proves to be insufficiently adept at problem solving, you can always eat it.

It was in this state that I (and you, and everyone else you know) stumbled upon the spider in the bathtub. A poor, trapped creature, that has failed to stumble across the old-fashioned plug chain, or the gentler gradients at the foot of the bath, that provide the only routes to safety.

Hold that thought.

Pittsburgh, particularly if you have just arrived from Chicago, one of the flattest cities on earth, is hilly. Not hilly like the rolling British countryside you see on PBS’s “Masterpiece Theater,” or even hilly like the streets of San Francisco. It is worse. San Francisco’s streets have generated any number of gradient-induced shenanigans, from the greatest movie car-chase of all time (for those of you unfamiliar with the classics: 1968’s Bullitt, starring Steve McQueen), to David Letterman standing atop the stomach-churning plunge of Filbert Street, and uttering the mischievous cry, “Release the melons!”

Filbert Street’s gradient maxes out at 31.5%, terrifying to mere mortals, but not the average Pittsburgher. Pittsburgh’s Canton Avenue, allegedly the steepest street in the world, comes in at 37% - and there’s plenty more where that came from. In Pittsburgh, Filbert Street is any street.

To make matters worse, Pittsburgh’s multitudinous slopes are not arranged in a user-friendly way. The reason everyone you meet in Pittsburgh is from Pittsburgh is that it’s impossible to leave. The hills are simply too steep. At its core, Pittsburgh is simply a series of gigantic, topographical bath tubs with a bunch of unusually good-natured spiders trapped at the bottom. (They won’t eat you, but they are quite likely to get you drunk and drag you off to a tattoo parlor). Pittsburghers live their entire lives ringed by the same set of hills. Unlike most spiders, they are somewhat aware that there’s a way out of the bathtub, but why bother? After all, the reward for all that effort is the dubious privilege of falling down the sides of another bath tub, into a different bottom, populated by a different set of spiders, with a different a set of customs, whom you have never set eyes on before. And who knows? These spiders might actually eat you.

It is true that there are Pittsburghers who have scaled the fearsome cliffs that box them in in search of a romantic partner from some exotic locale. But these are stories that never end well. Either they are never seen again (eaten, one presumes), or they return with a fiancé/spouse and spend the rest of their lives in a state of wretched confrontation, fighting about whose bathtub to live in, whether it’s worth the effort and fuel of traveling to the other bathtub for the holidays, and whether to tell the children that they are “special” in the sense that one of their parents was born in an inferior piece of enamelware. In the face of these appalling dangers, most Pittsburghers have quite sensibly concluded that one bathtub per lifetime is more than enough.

Of course, if you have recently arrived from Chicago, you don’t know any of this. Being considerably dumber than the average Pittsburgher (and, for that matter, most spiders) you don’t even realize that you’ve fallen into a tub. Heck, you don’t even know what a tub is.

Until you do.

My wife, who is the brains the family, not only knows how to read, she actually practices the art. Normally, when my wife starts talking about books, I stumble toward the kitchen in search of a beer, or turn up the volume on the football game. However, on this particular occasion, she happened to mention that she wanted to read Hillbilly Elegy, by J.D. Vance. Now, I don’t know much about much, but I know this: Pittsburgh is not called “The Paris of France,” or the “The Paris of Everywhere Else but France,” or even “The Paris of Hoity-Toity American Elites Who Won’t Pay the Airfare to France.” It is called “The Paris of Appalachia.” Hillbilly Elegy is a book about the neighbors. And because I am nothing if not neighborly, I took an interest. In fact, I took more than an interest. I volunteered to get it for her. From a real bookshop. With my own hands.

My wife, who is the brains of the family, looked skeptical. And worried.

“Do you know how to get there?” She asked. “Won’t you get lost? I can just order it on Amazon.”

“Don’t worry,” I replied, with all the assurance of a man who has been poring over street maps. “I just need to get to Aspinwall. Down the street to Fifth Avenue and turn left. After that it’s four-lane and six-lane highway all the way. Fifth Avenue becomes Washington Boulevard, which turns into Butler Street. There’s a giant bridge there called the Highland Park bridge, I use it to cross the Allegheny River and turn right: Aspinwall.” And because I arrived here before she did, I ended with a joke that really irritates her: “For a native Pittsburgher like me, it’s easy.”

As my wife had nothing throwable to hand, I reached my Illinois-plated car without injury and set off. Deftly navigating the potholes (“I’m from Chicago – ha!”) I reached Fifth Avenue and turned left, blithely ignoring the way the road plunged downwards and the sudden appearance of looming hills on one side of the street. I proceeded confidently onto the broad expanse of Washington Boulevard, where the road ahead was almost Chicago-flat, but was now framed by near-vertical slopes on both sides.

And then I hit a road block. Nothing unusual for the city-dweller, you might think. Just your standard battered plank of wood atop equally battered trestles stenciled with an acronym for “Department of Unannounced Roadworks Timed for Maximum Inconvenience.” All three lanes in my direction were blocked off by people in hard hats doing nothing the uninitiated could identify as work. So far, so depressingly normal.

But here’s what isn’t normal. Everyone you meet in Pittsburgh is from Pittsburgh. If everyone knows where they are and where they’re going, why waste taxpayer money telling people stuff they already know?

There was no detour marked out.

This was a major, major road, with a ton of traffic, presumably going somewhere, and not the slightest indication of how to do it. Suddenly, the hills on either side of the road ceased to look scenic. They took on the aspect of menacing, near-vertical wastelands. I knew as surely as I know my own name that if I wandered up there on my own, I was never coming down again. Ever. The sun vanished behind a cloud.

And then, a sudden insight. Everyone in Pittsburgh is from Pittsburgh. I may not know where I’m going, but they do. And they were all going my way. I’ll just follow the guy in front of me. Genius!

And that’s exactly what I did. I followed the guy in front of me, clinging to his fender like an automotive leech. Hypothetically speaking, of course, I might have shaved the traffic laws a little bit. But, hey, if ever there was a time to drive like a Chicagoan this was it. My spirit guide turned left off Washington and the nose of his car pointed to the sky. He started climbing. And didn’t stop. We turned left and right and ass-backwards but kept going up, on grades so steep my car burst into tears. Everything my less-than-tidy spouse had dumped on the dash rushed past my head on its way to the trunk. It was only by some miracle that I didn’t lose an eye: lipstick cylinders hurt. The hot, sweaty grip of gravity tried to pull me back too, but I was held in place by a seat belt, a white-knuckled attachment to the steering wheel, and the power of prayer. So long as I didn’t lose the guy in front of me, I told myself, it would all turn out right.

And I kept telling myself that right up until the moment he pulled into the cobbled driveway of his high-altitude, split-level home.

Royally lost – and desperate – I turned on the GPS function on my phone. But here’s the thing about Pittsburgh. The GPS? It don’t work so good. Either there’s no reception, or it tells you to make a turn after you’ve already passed it, or the turn it wants you to make looks perfectly good on the map but, “IRL” as my daughter would say, requires you to ram through a crash barrier and plunge 300 feet to your death. Abandoned by my fellow man, failed by 21st Century technology, and devoid of any sense of direction, I lurched from one random intersection to the next, desperately seeking a way out of the trap I’d made for myself.

Like a spider in a bathtub.

And, like a spider in a bathtub, I eventually found myself back where I started. At the bottom of a perilous descent which somehow, magically, opened onto a street that I recognized, deliriously close to home. A home that I should never, ever, have left. A Pittsburgh home, let me tell you, is a perfectly nice place. The hills that surround it are gorgeous, and the views are spectacular. I can’t think of a single solitary reason why I would want to leave it.

“Did you get the book?” my wife asked.

“Yes,” I replied. “I ordered it on Amazon.”
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Published on January 03, 2018 18:27 • 1 view